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First Amendment Right of Free Speech in the USA Essay

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Updated: Sep 28th, 2021

The First Amendment Right that is involved relates to Freedom of Speech that is enjoyed by citizens of United States of America.

Setting of precedents

The precedents that were set relate to the Supreme Court case (1942) in the case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (No. 255) 91 N.H. 310, 18 A.2d 754, affirmed. In this case, it is seen that the Public Law of New Hampshire which bans under punishment “any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place,” or “call him by any offensive or derisive name,” which has been interpreted by the Supreme Court of the State, in this case and before this case arose, as limited to the use in a public place, of utterances directly tending to cause violation of the peace by instigating the person addressed to acts of violence. (Supreme Court Collection).

Held, the defendant was convicted. Upon appeal against the lower court’s judgment, the Supreme Court overruled the appeal.

Lovell v. Griffin case

In yet another case of Lovell v. Griffin, 303 U. S. 444, 303 U. S. 450, it was held that freedom of speech are not absolute rights through the exercise of which derogatory, defamatory or vituperative language could be justified. The Constitution does not permit the use of such languages as exercise of the privilege of free speech. (U.S.Supreme Court Chaplinsky v.New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942)).

In the case of US v. Flowers, (2006) it is seen that Daniel A. Flower was convicted of drunkenness and obstruction of public order. It is also believed that he had also used profane language on police officers who were carrying out their duties.

Upon conviction, he appealed to the District Court and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of North Caroline filed an application abetting Flowers’ professed contesting of profanity law. Flowers and the ACLU contended that the law was stretched in order to include his actions in its legal scope. He requested for repeal of the conviction but the District Judge Lacy H. Thornburg rejected the appeal on the ground that his justification concerns profanity law covers only ‘words’ that is normally used in frontal verbal assaults. (Hudson).

What the writer feels about this aspect

It needs to be analyzed whether uttering profanities in public places, especially against law enforcement officers, who wish to exercise restraint on willful or drunken offenders, constitutes a privilege granted under the First Amendment and reinforced under the Fourteenth Amendment. The matter of seeking resort to the Amendments needs to be viewed contextually, and upon the merits of each case. Moreover, the aspects of material damages and culpable offence under law also need to be reasoned out. It also needs to be assessed whether the alleged offender was coerced or subjected to undue physical or mental restraint as a result of which he was forced to utter the profanities.

As mentioned earlier, the law does not guarantee the use of profane or vulgar language under its Freedom of Speech privileges.

Since there may be material variations between cases, dealing with utterances of profane language, it becomes necessary to have certain broad parameters in which to deal with them on a broad basis:

  1. It is necessary for concerned parties to comply and confer to the due process of law with regard to the scope and powers available to deal substantively with such violations
  2. It is also necessary that the vituperative speech or utterances do not interfere with the exercise with the freedom of speech enjoyed by individuals in set circumstances.
  3. The contextual aspects of such utterances also need to be considered since uttering profanities in the privacy of one’s home is significantly different from its utterances in a public highway, without provocation.

The aspect of materiality is also an important consideration, as was seen in the case of UV V State of Indiana, the state argued that the youth had abused his right of free speech, but the court said “his comments only annoyed police and did not cause real harm.” (Indiana Appeals Court: Cursing at Cop was Protected Speech).

Should freedom of speech be protected by First Amendment or should Government be also involved in it

The aspect of Freedom of Speech is guaranteed by the First Amendment at a time when it was not envisaged that this law would become a hotbed of judicial controversies and legal interpretations and misinterpretations. In any event, no law maker in his right frame of mind would allow profanities and verbal assaults to be allowed by the First Amendment, let alone be protected by it.

Legal jurisprudence is a contextual matter and Courts need to consider a holistic and episodal view of the actual deliberations before passing judgment.

It could therefore be said that the basic framework of laws and religious tenets need to be circumscribed by Acts like the First and Fourteenth Amendment while its actual implementation in cases are a subject matter of state and governmental authority. The laws would provide subjective reference while the governmental machinery would need to exercise it in empirical situations.

Works Cited

Supreme Court Collection: SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES. Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire (No. 255). Cornell University law school. 1942. Web.

U.S.Supreme Court Chaplinsky v.New Hampshire, 315 U.S. 568 (1942). Justia: US Supreme Court Center. P. 315. Web.

Hudson, David L. Jr. Federal Judge: State can Prohibit Profanity on Public Highways. First Amendment Center. 2007. Web.

Indiana Appeals Court: Cursing at Cop was Protected Speech.

First Amendment Center. 2005. Web.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'First Amendment Right of Free Speech in the USA'. 28 September.

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